Stetson came into Sunday’s series finale against Lipscomb looking for a sweep, but the visiting Bison were not interested in going down easily. The Hatters were able to get a 3-2 victory to complete the sweep, but the final out came with the tying run standing just 90 feet from home plate.
With the victory, The Hatters improved to 26-13 overall and, more importantly, 9-6 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. In fact, with wins by Kennesaw State and Jacksonville on Sunday, the Hatters would be tied in the loss column with the teams leading the league.
Lipscomb slips to fifth place in the league race with a 17-23 overall record, 9-9 in A-Sun play.
“It is a huge win today and a big sweep that we needed,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “We went from trailing these guys in the conference to leap-frogging them into fourth place. You never want to look too far ahead, but we are only one game behind in the loss column because most of the other clubs have played an extra series.”
The Hatters were able to complete the sweep by using the same combination that resulted in winning the first two games – pitching and defense with a timely hit or two mixed in.
Sunday’s pitching star, as he has been in Sunday starts since the beginning of league play, was senior Will Dorsey. Despite surrendering nine hits – all singles – Dorsey (5-3) blanked the Bison into the seventh inning, posting four strikeouts while going to just one three ball count on a batter.
“I was able to scatter the hits around and I felt sharp the entire time I was out there,” Dorsey said. “It was one of those days and the big key for me was to command both sides of the plate. I was able to do that with the fastball and then mix in some off-speed pitches as well.”
While Dorsey was working his magic, the Hatters were able to score some early runs off Lipscomb starter Josh Cotham (3-4). Mark Jones and Mitchel Brennan both singled and scored in the second inning, Jones on a single by Kurt Schluter and Brennan on a ground out. Jones then doubled home Sam Kimmel, who had singled, in the third.
With three hits on the day, Jones now has a 12-game hit streak and has raised his season batting average all the way up to .299 from a low point of .167 back on March 9.
“It has been a long road,” Jones said, “but we won another game today and that is all that matters. I am just trying to go up there and have good at bats.”
Jones said the Hatters have developed major confidence going into Sunday games because of the way Dorsey has performed on the mound.
“Will is throwing the ball tremendously right now, but the rest of the pitching staff is as well,” Jones said. “As defenders, we go out there and try to make every play. That is a good team and those guys did not want to come over here and get swept. We stuck with it and beat a good Lipscomb club.”
After scoring the third run, the Hatters never got another runner past second base. After Zach Lowery hit a solo homer for Lipscomb in the eighth inning off Jake Boyd, there were a few nervous moments in the Stetson dugout.
“I’ve coached against Lipscomb enough to know that they are gutty and gritty and are going to get after you,” Dunn said. “I knew they weren’t going to roll over. We kept trying to add to the lead, but we never could get that key hit to get four or five on the board. They got that homer in the eighth to get back in the game and ended up with the tying run on at third base in the ninth.”
With Robbie Powell on to pitch the ninth, the Bison got a pair of one-out singles to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Powell got a potential double-play grounder, but Shawn Mehring took out Jones at second, forcing a bad throw, allowing Aaron Sandoval to score and Lee Wilson to go all the way to third base.
Powell was able to close out the Bison with a fly ball to earn his 10th save of the year.
“That is a big weekend for us,” Dunn said. “We’ve muddling around the .500 mark in the conference after starting 1-2. We got beat two out of three last week and came in at 6-6, but we really needed a big weekend. Schluter gave us the performance on Friday night that we have been expecting and then (Lindsey) Caughel pitched well in the second game. Dorsey stepped up again and gave us a solid Sunday start.”
The Hatters will have to go back on the road in league play next weekend for a three-game series in Jacksonville at North Florida. But, before that happens, the Hatters will host cross-county rival Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday night at Melching Field.
“Before we look ahead to next weekend, we have Bethune coming in here and we have already beaten those guys once, so they will come in here now wanting to get beat again,” Jones said. “We have to take care of our business on Tuesday, then we can look ahead to UNF next weekend. We have to take this thing one game at a time.”
While Jones ran his hitting streak to 12 games, Ben Carhart went hitless on Sunday, snapping his streak at 15 games. Kimmel had two hits for the Hatters on Sunday. Wilson and Lowery had three hits each in the game for Lipscomb.
“This game on Tuesday night will be big,” Dunn said. “I looked at our RPI today and it is in the 50s and I don’t feel real good with that. We have to keep winning to build on that and lower than number to put ourselves in the at-large hunt again. There is a long way to that and we have to continue to focus on one game at a time.”